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MedTech MVP 2023: Building the Digital Operating Room


Aside from robotics, modern ORs can benefit greatly by incorporating modern digital technologies.

Over the past decades, the number of hospitals in the United States has significantly grown. While this provides a lot of benefits, it also creates complications. For examples, as more operating rooms open, that means more doctors and nurses are required to run these rooms. Unfortunately, the industry has struggled to keep these rooms properly staffed.

At the MedTech MVP 2023 conference in Minneapolis, Daniel Hawkins, founder and CEO of Avail Medsystems Inc, and Sheila Shah, managing director at L.E.K. Consulting discussed the growth of the digital operating room in a session titled, “Moving Beyond Robotics – What the Digital OR Means for Med Device, Healthcare, and How We Will Get There.”

As the name of the session implies, the discussion quickly moved past how modern robotics technology is being implemented in operating rooms. Instead, it focused on newer digital technologies that are designed to bring more people to the OR, even if they can’t be there in person.

New devices that provide a telepresence in the operating allow doctors to connect with other experts in their fields to oversee complicated procedures. These experts would no longer have to coordinate complicated travel plans, and will be free to spend more time actually assisting patients, even if it’s in a remote aspect.

Hawkins explained that digital ORs should have certain components. First, they should include robotics. More importantly, however, they need to have remote access to room through on-call remote sensors. It should also have some AI-connected software, along with video playback technology, to provide doctors with quick access to libraries and other supporting materials.

Going back to the robotic materials in the room, new technology allows for precise remote control in certain cases. Lastly, the ORs need to have cameras, speakers, and microphones that are connected to the digital interface.

Hawkins, however, explained that one of the major obstacles in the push for the digital OR actually comes from patients. According to him, patients have been trained over a lifetime to expect bodies to be in the room with them. For digital ORs to become more accepted, patients are going to need to be educated and become comfortable with experts remotely connecting to the room for procedures.

There have been a lot of advancements in robotics in recent years, which explains its growing presence in modern ORs. To truly modernize these rooms, however, HCPs should also find ways to incorporate digital and communication technologies to truly bring these ORs to the modern world.

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